I’m often asked how we go about home school for preschool.
Usually parents want to know whether it’s difficult and when they should start.
I was a preschool teacher and worked as an Education advisor for ten years before becoming a mum so hopefully I have an interesting perspective to share.
Is homeschooling for preschool difficult?
I know that little ones are exhausting but having them at home 24/7 is not as difficult as you might think.
For starters there’s no need to drag them to preschool early each morning!
Home educating in the early years does not have to mean a tonne of planning and preparation.
Infact, I find that home schooling preschoolers works out much better when it’s kept as simple as possible.
As a preschool teacher I spent hours planning, assessing and making resources but thank fully home school for preschool doesn’t entail that same workload…and the best thing is that they get so much out of it.
They love to learn.
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"Child-led learning" "Learning through play" I never truly achieved either as a preschool teacher. As a home educating parent it's just 'what we do'. Last night I thought we'd start with a little dino messy play and then go for a nature walk, chill, play and then make pizza. Four year old Leo said he'd prefer to do a nature bike ride so we did. Then he saw the seed from the avocado we bought reduced yesterday in the compost and asked if we could plant it. I'll add his sleepy how to plant a 'bacado'' guide in my stories 🤣 Then while little bro napped he made dino cookies for his cousins. Little bro woke up and helped us make pizza dough before they went outside to play together. We finally sat down at around 5pm. He chose to read Usborne Prehistory at bedtime. Today he learnt Maths, English, French, Science, History, Media Studies in addition to all the social and emotional skills we work through. That is child led learning. That is nurturing a love of learning. That is fuelling an inquisitive mind. That is organic learning. That is an education to be proud of. So, remind me again why so many people frown upon home education? 🤷♀️ #proudtohomeschool #homeschoolmama
There’s no wrestling to get clothes on before your child is fully awake, deciding if someone is going to need to cancel work because they’re sick.
I find there is far less juggling and more time to slow down and connect.
A word of warning – don’t go on Pinterest and freak out about all the beautiful ideas and phonic activities for preschool…it’s just not necesary!
When should I start homeschooling my preschooler?
You already have!
Who taught him to clap, to build a tower, to hold a spoon, to walk and talk?
Homeschooling a preschooler is what you have done since birth.
Nothing really changes when you homeschool for preschool.
You don’t need to suddenly start sitting your child down for formal lessons.
That’s the beauty of home education.
Just keep doing what you’re doing and they’ll keep learning (I’ll talk more about what this means…)
So, here’s my take on how to successfully home school for preschool:
1. Don’t force it.
Don’t try to force you’re child to learn something that they aren’t ready/don’t want to learn yet.
Avoid getting pulled into the whole “my 2 year old can recite the alphabet” / “well, my four year old is reading novels” thing.
Infact, there is no actual benefit to a 3 year old being able to read.
If he wants to then that really is great.
If he’d rather hunt for worms in the mud or paint his toenails red then that’s great too.
Home school for preschoolers does not mean sitting a three year old at a desk until he’s memorized a few letters or can follow a wiggly line along a piece of paper.
Research shows that kids who learn to read later not only out perform earlier readers but also retain their enthusiasm for reading (and I’m certain this pattern follows other skills).
That is what is important…enthusiasm for learning.
Most kids will learn the important stuff organically, given a positive, supportive environment.
Whether they are 3 or 7 years old doesn’t matter a whole lot (unless they’re in the school system who has it’s own agenda).
Believe that your children are capable and trust yourself to recognize when they are ready.
2. Follow their lead.
So, if you’re not ‘forcing’ them to learn how do you teach a preschooler?
You let them lead their own learning.
The role of the home educator is to facilitate that learning.
To give an example, our just-turned four year old decided that he wanted to post a letter to his Granny (who lives a few doors up the road from us).
He chose a card, he asked for my help to write it, he cut, folded and glued an envelope, dressed as a ‘postman’ and hand delivered the letter.
I had minimal involvement other than when he asked me a question. I gave some words of encouragement and was genuinely impressed by his enthusiasm.
As an ex-preschool teacher, I know that hour was more beneficial than any day he’d spend in school.
So find out what gets your child excited…set up a garage with some clipboards, a cafe with a notebook.
Play doctors or transformers or fire fighters.
Stand back and let your toddler “write” , read and make-believe…even if they’re doing it “wrong”.
My son is incredibly strong-willed and I know that if we’d have pushed writing too early he would have rejected the idea. But, he’s now discovering on his own how learning to read and write opens the door to a whole new and exciting world.
Make sure that your preschooler can access things like books, jigsaws, crafts and paper so that they can have a little independence when they’re ready.
3. Have a plan
I’m not big on plans but it does help us to have a rough idea of what we’re doing each week.
Our plan is literally a few columns drawn onto an old laminated poster.
It’s not pretty…we just use markers to note our activities in each column and wipe it off at the end of the week.
I also use my bullet journal home school planner pages to jot down ideas and questions my preschooler has ask for times when I’m lacking inspiration.
It’s great to have everything in one place.
4. Deviate from your plan!
Ok, so now you have a plan…don’t be afraid to deviate from it!
If you’ve planned to do some painting but your preschooler wants to rustle in the autumn leaves outside then do that.
You can always bring some leaves indoors to print with or paint around.
If your preschooler (or you) just isn’t feeling it then have a chill day on the sofa (not so easy if you have more than one child!)
5. Have a question wall
Preschoolers are always asking questions aren’t they!
It can be a real struggle to answer them all.
A technique we use in our house is to write their questions down.
That way they feel listened to and we have time to explore the answers properly together.
It’s a great way to let them lead their own learning.
7. Days Out
So, from now on all days out are referred to as “educational visits”.
An springtime walk to the park – learning about seasons, flowers, growth, colours.
A visit to a local farm – learning about animal husbandry, gardening, life skills.
Grocery shopping – learning about Money, budgeting, decision making, social skills…
I think you get the point!
8. Find a friend
The “how will your child learn to socialize?” question!
Children don’t actually need to mix with a bunch of kids their own age in order to learn to socialize.
Infact, they’ll learn much more effectively from older children and adults.
Babies and toddlers learn to socialize by watching our interactions…both with them and those around us.
Unless you live in the middle of nowhere they will see you socializing and they will learn to socialize.
Toddlers won’t even show much interest in playing with other children until around age 3. Social interactions can actually be stressful for them.
That said, it can help home schooling parents to build a support network as you’ll most likely be with your kids 24/7 and YOU may like some adult company.
Equally you may not.
If you want to locate a meet-up then home school groups are pretty easy to find online if other home educators live in nearby.
Remember that you’re not ‘limited’ to sticking to home ed groups. Try local clubs like sports, art or drama.
Play dates are also great too for preschoolers as they will probably find it easier to practice social skills in a smaller group.
9. Get outdoors
Spend as much time outside as possible.
Getting preschoolers moving in order to build gross motor skills is so important.
Not only do gross motor activities like jumping, climbing and swinging build muscle and co-ordination but they are also essential for controlling fine motor skills like writing.
You may like to read a post I put together that’s all about encouraging kids outdoors.
10. Forget subjects!
You really do not need a preschool curriculum or to ‘teach’ subjects (in the formal sense).
Forget about trying to replicate school in the home.
Forget about an hour of Maths or two of English. Count footsteps, bake cookies, read together…
Home educating during the preschool years (and beyond) is a time for encouraging curiosity and wonder!
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So, are you going to home school for preschool!?